Growing up in a military family, senior Kelly Donovan did what most kids do who move a lot. She developed wanderlust. As she nears the end of a remarkable UNCG experience, she’s doing what few do – planning for a lifetime of world travel and cultural ambassadorship.

Four years ago, her desire to experience the world led her to UNCG, where she found an emphasis on international education.

“I wanted to be around people who cared about things that aren’t just American. UNCG had the best study abroad program on the East Coast. What ultimately sold me was the Lloyd International Honors College because they integrate study abroad into the curriculum.”

Kelly is set to graduate a semester early with a double major in Spanish and Asian Studies. She came to UNCG with enough Spanish credits not only to pursue another language, but to travel abroad five times, studying cultural similarities and differences in Honduras, Costa Rica, Spain, and China — twice.

“The thought of going to China was terrifying, but I knew I had to do it,” she says. “Things are going to go wrong. You have to roll with the punches, be brave.”

She sees every international experience as an opportunity to better understand not only another culture, but also her own. She wants the same for her peers. That’s why she started a chapter of Students Helping Honduras.

“If you don’t learn a foreign language, you don’t truly know your own language. And if you don’t go to another country, you don’t really know America. You need the perspective of seeing what another country is about to appreciate your own.”

Following her trip to Honduras, she helped fellow students make the same journey. “Seeing people make a barbed wire fence out of broken glass will change you. You realize that we aren’t as different as we think we are. Our survival needs are what’s different.”

In addition to encouraging her classmates to get their own passports stamped, Kelly serves as an Interlink conversation partner for international students, a Peer Academic Leader, a tutor in the Learning Assistance Center and a mentor for the honor college’s new One World Leader (OWL) program. She’s also beginning a one-year assignment with AmeriCorps.

And her GPA?

“4.0. I sit in Jackson Library, fifth floor, booth on the left. That’s my spot. Every time somebody’s in there, I just cry,” she says, laughing.

Her perseverance earned Kelly the prestigious Critical Language Scholarship to China. She credits “Basement Guy” as well – Steve Flynn. Flynn is coordinator of the Undergraduate Scholars Program and Prestigious International/National Fellowships. He’s a dedicated mentor whose office is in the basement of North Spencer, one of the residential options for the Honors College community.

“He encouraged me to apply even though there was only a 3 percent acceptance rate. He’s also the reason I’m currently applying for four post-graduate scholarships.” She’s referring to the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Taiwan, the Rangel Graduate Fellowship, the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship and the Chinese Government Scholarship.

She’s also considering a master’s degree in international relations in the near future.

“No matter where I go in life, I know I will meet someone different from me, someone from whom I can learn new things. I want to share what I learn and help people appreciate the differences and similarities between cultures.”

Story by Andrea Spencer, University Relations

Photography by Chris English, University Relations